Russ and Darrell Dwarf - The Killer Dwarfs - Back
Interviewer: Cameron Edney - http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com

For more than twenty years now Canadian rockers the Killer Dwarfs have been entertaining audiences worldwide. Formed in late 1981 by Russ and Darrell Dwarf, the Killer Dwarfs released their self-titled debut album in 1983 the band still have a large following today. The award-winning band established a solid following in Canada and went on to dominate audiences around the world. To date the official Killer Dwarfs website has had more than one million hits proving they are still as popular now as they have ever been. I recently had the pleasure of catching up with the founding members of the Dwarfs Russ and Darrell. We spoke about life on the road, the possibility of some new Killer Dwarfs material, Darrell & Russ’ solo projects and much more. I got this interview out just in time for Halloween so let’s go and trick or treat with The Killer Dwarfs!

Metal Fanatix: First of all guys, thanks for putting some time aside to answer the following questions for all of our readers, it’s truly a pleasure to be doing this interview with you both. I’d like to start by going back to 1982/83 when you recorded the first self titled ‘Killer Dwarfs’ album. If someone had come up to you & told you that you would still be doing this all these years later would you have believed them?

Darrell Dwarf: Hey Cameron, it’s our pleasure. I’d say yes actually. I started out in this racket at about ten years old playing live. I knew this would be a life long job.

Russ Dwarf: Honestly I probably would have, I think when you are younger you really have a feeling of being immortal. I think it's kind of a mechanism to help you survive all the rejection that comes with this business. You must remember that by the time we got to 82/83 we all had been doing this for at least six or seven years already, we thought we were old veterans.

Metal Fanatix: Many Killer Dwarfs fans around the world are hungry for some new material. Can you shed any light on to when this is going to happen?

Darrell Dwarf: Not sure if & when it's going to happen. Songs were written & pre-production started, but that was as far as it got. The reunion of the band in 2001 didn't really have set long term goals. It was really for the fans to experience the band again.

Russ Dwarf: Yes that would be nice. We have written new tunes in the last few years, but still haven't gotten around to completing anything as Darrell said. We all have other projects we are working on at this time & just haven't committed to anything as of yet.

Metal Fanatix: Do you guys have any plans in the works to release a DVD in the next 12 months?

Russ Dwarf: As you know we recorded a "Live" DVD & CD in the summer of 2001. Since then we have pretty much recorded every show we've played, not to mention the hours of video footage from the past 24 years. I have started to edit some footage & would like to release some of it along with all the Videos. I’m not really in a big hurry to do it though, plus, as in anything dealing with this kind of thing, there is red tape for days...

Metal Fanatix: After all these years of writing and recording how do you constantly come up with new fresh sounding material without falling into the trap a lot of other bands do by repeating themselves?

Darrell Dwarf: It's tough writing with a band such as Killer Dwarfs. The band has a set sound & lyrical direction. Ask Russ that one [laughs]. My new band Automan.ca is in the infancy of writing & the music is just pouring out effortlessly.

Russ Dwarf: How do you know we haven't fallen into a trap? Seriously I think you are always going to stick to certain styles you have come to know as you own when it comes to writing. As far as the Killer Dwarfs we do have a distinctive style that you probably call you signature. I think if you just let it flow you can usually be true to yourself. When you start to think too much or try to be something you're not that's when you might fall into a cookie cutter trap. We all write different types of music outside of Killer Dwarfs & all have quite a full musical ear, so I'm sure this also helps in the end...

Metal Fanatix: Being a founding member of such an influential band, who were you surprised to learn was a fan of the band?

Darrell Dwarf: Oh I can’t think of one off hand, but I am surprised everyday at people I first meet that know & love the band.

Russ Dwarf: Good question. I have found that a lot of younger bands seem to be fans such as Bowling for Soup.

Metal Fanatix: Guys it’s no secret that you guys took quite a long break for a while there; can you tell us how the first encounter back in the studio went after such a long time apart?

Darrell Dwarf: Definitely a little strange, but it was incredible, how easy it was to fall back into the old groove of The Dwarfs.

Russ Dwarf: Yes that was interesting to say the least [laughs]. Some of us hadn't talked in years, it was a bit scary, but also exciting. We knew we had nothing to lose & even if you don't totally get along in every day living there is still a bond that music brings you that no one else can really understand. It can be quite a spiritual event.

Metal Fanatix: Now Darrell, I want to talk a bit about the most recent project in your life Automan.ca, tell us how the band formed?

Darrell Dwarf: I am the front man in this band. I was touring with ZZ Top playing drums in a band called Laidlaw from Southern California. I have always sung & love to sing. On that tour I got up in the sound check with ZZ Top’s road crew & sang a few AC/DC songs every show. That started the spark. I moved back to Toronto & sought out players to start an AC/DC tribute band to get my front man chops up. Carleton Lockhart became my writing partner & Automan.ca was born in 2002. If anyone wants to read the full story they can go the official website.

Metal Fanatix: Now unlike your work with the Killer Dwarfs & Laidlaw as you just mentioned you’re out fronting this band. Is being the front man something you have wanted to do for a long time?

Darrell Dwarf: Well, I think it is a challenge I always wanted to tackle. It just looks like so much fun & it is. I like to talk, too much sometimes [laughs]. It’s a good quality to have fronting a band.

Metal Fanatix: How hard was it at first to make that transition after sitting behind the kit all these years?

Darrell Dwarf: I have to be honest. Went on like a glove. I felt like I had been doing it my whole life.

Metal Fanatix: Automan.ca has set up dates in November for Canadian fans. Is there any plans to tour the states, Europe & beyond?

Darrell Dwarf: Yes. Automan.ca has big goals & plans. The band will tour where ever they will have us. We all know this will take some powerful backing politically. This is in the works. First things first, conquer our homeland of Canada.

Metal Fanatix: How did Nikki Sixx become involved with producing the Laidlaw album ‘First Big Picnic’ & how did you find working with Nikki?

Darrell Dwarf: Nikki is as true of a Rockstar as the word itself. Nikki’s a great guy. He was great to work with. I tracked drums in two days on that first Laidlaw disc. It all went smooth & quick. Nikki got involved because Craig Defalco leader of Laidlaw was Nikki's tech. Sixx gave him the break.

Metal Fanatix: After all these years & success what goals have you set for yourself these days?

Russ Dwarf: To be the Happy!! To enjoy everyday with My Wife & Daughter, & try not to sweat the small stuff, remember in the end it's all small stuff!!! I'd like to continue to perform & write music, as of recently I have been asked to teach an Rock ‘n’ Roll School for young bands. I'm really looking forward to that plus I am working on my second solo CD.

Darrell Dwarf: To be as busy as possible everyday, & accomplish at least one thing for the benefit of my career everyday.

Metal Fanatix: I’d like to talk to you a bit about touring. What is the most ridiculous thing you have ever asked for on a tour rider?

Darrell Dwarf: We were never one of these bands with the big demands & M&M's deal on our rider. Booze & Food was the priority.

Russ Dwarf: I used to have Cheesecake & Grand Marnier for myself. That's really not that wild [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: What do you remember from the first performance you did together?

Darrell Dwarf: I was in a three piece band called Sphinx before the Killer Dwarfs. I would sing many songs from the kit. When Russ hit the stage in front of me for the first time, it was weird not singing, Seeing Russ running all over in front of me took some time to get use to. It was great though. I knew the band had something. Entertainment value for the most. It's hard to entertain as a three piece. I find most of them boring except for ZZ Top & Rush.

Russ Dwarf: It was in Darrell & Bryce’s hometown of Oshawa Ontario. I really only remember not being able to walk the next day [laughs]. Every bone in my body ached.

Metal Fanatix: What's the strangest/funniest thing that has ever happened to you on stage?

Darrell Dwarf: A prank with Iron Maiden gone a-rye. It was the last night on tour with Maiden at The Hammersmith. I was prancing around in my underwear & boots during Maidens ‘Die With Your Boots On’ [Laughs]. Bruce got to me & tore off the gotch & voila, here I am naked in front of all those blokes, not good. [Laughs]

Russ Dwarf: Hmm let me think, getting my eyeball pushed out of it socket was interesting, breaking two ribs was another [laughs]. This was a very active sport in our younger days.

Metal Fanatix: What is your favorite song/s to perform live?

Russ Dwarf: ‘Doesn't Matter’ & ‘All That We Dream’ are my favorites.

Darrell Dwarf: My favorite Killer Dwarfs tracks are ’Dirty Weapons’, ‘Want it Bad’ & ‘Doesn't matter’. Laidlaw; ‘Catfish’, ‘Stew’, ‘Send My Baby Home’ & ‘Stoned’. Automan.ca I’d have to say all of them.

Metal Fanatix: When the time comes to work out the set list, do you find it hard to choose the right songs, I mean there will always be fans who want to hear the old stuff & the occasional obscure song & of course you have to play some new tracks. Do you find it hard to make a set that will keep fans of all eras happy?

Darrell Dwarf: Well, Russ really had most of the say in picking the set, being the singer. I was always pushing for stuff off the first album. Most fans cherish the early stuff from any band.

Russ Dwarf: We try to do something from every album. We usually keep the set pretty much the same for a year or so & then switch it up once in awhile. It also depends on the length of the show, if we are headlining or not, that sort of thing.

Metal Fanatix: Do you do anything specific to warm up & prepare for a show?

Russ Dwarf: Cold Beer! We are Canadian you know [laughs].

Darrell Dwarf: [Laughs] Drumming I always do rudiments on a pad & stretches. Singing, I do some stretching & warm the pipes up with some pre-singing.

Metal Fanatix: I have to ask you Darrell, after years of using Vic Firth drumsticks you changed to using the 2B emglow model that glows in the dark. Which sounds very cool to me, I have read quotes where you’ve said the stick last for several shows & never break. As a drummer I have to know how true is that?

Darrell Dwarf: Unfortunately the company is not manufacturing sticks anymore. I have a huge surplus that will keep me in sticks for years. After that, I will switch again. They don't break & do last several shows before they start to fray in the middle like a regular stick.

Metal Fanatix: The hardware that you use is amazing, for more than twenty years now you have been bashing on Ludwig kits & Sabian cymbals what is it about the two brands that has kept you using it for so long, have you ever considered using other kits & cymbals?

Darrell Dwarf: Cymbals has always Sabian & it will stay that way. Drums, there’s lots of good companies. DW is hot. I favor American drums. I have an old Slingerland monster kit I still use, & several hot Ludwig kits. I have just had great luck with these brands live & in the studio. It's all preference.

Metal Fanatix: Over the years you guys have shared the stage with so many great bands. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most & could you share a funny road story with us from the tour?

Darrell Dwarf: For me it’s the Scorpions/Motley Crue tour. Once we were in a hotel parking lot on one of Scorpions bus's. The bass player had taken us on with some girls when he wasn't really supposed to be on the bus. One of the guys in Laidlaw that I won’t mention [laughs] dumped the shitter of the bus; it streamed all down into the front lobby area with the real piss stench. Lots of trouble from that one [laughs].

Russ Dwarf: Iron Maiden is by far my favorite band; they are true gentlemen & treated us with grace & respect. They are a class act all the way. On the closing night of the Maiden dates Darrell ended up naked on stage with them during ‘Die With Your Boots On’ as he mentioned before, comedy at its finest! [Laughs] We have video footage of the event that will hopefully make it to DVD someday.

Metal Fanatix: What has been the best show of your life so far?

Darrell Dwarf: Way too many to hit one show. Massey Hall in Toronto with Laidlaw was a highlight. I love the history of that venue. The Iron Maiden/Dwarfs tour; Hammersmith & Wembley Arena was memorable shows.

Russ Dwarf: I have to agree it’s too hard to pin point just one show, there have been a few. The first time in San Antonio Texas at the Majestic Theatre was a highlight early on for sure, plus the shows we played on the Maiden “Seventh Son” Tour in the U.K. were amazing, Hammersmith Odeon in London was certainly a highlight show.

Metal Fanatix: Is there a show that you'd recall as the worst one?

Darrell Dwarf: Yes, it was a Dwarfs show at a club in Brooklyn; I think it was in Brooklyn! We were drunk at a pre show autograph session for the label. Then limo’s took us to this show in Brooklyn. A traffic accident made us real late for the show. The freeway was shut down. We finally made the show at 3 am to pissed off fans. I played like shit. I don't get drunk to perform. I was over my limit that night. [Laughs]

Russ Dwarf: [Laughs] Tulsa Oklahoma! That’s all I’m gonna say [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: Do you have any plans in the pipeline to tour Australia?

Darrell Dwarf: Oh I would love to; it’s all up to the promoters down there.

Russ Dwarf: No one’s asked! We absolutely would love come down. If you know of any agents interested let me know!

Metal Fanatix: Russ I will keep you in mind mate, you guys have grown up influenced by some of the greatest bands in Rock ‘n’ Roll history. Do you feel you have played a large role in influencing many of today’s hard rock/metal acts?

Russ Dwarf: That’s hard to say. I just love Rock ‘n’ Roll very much & I’m proud to have been able to make my life making music.

Darrell Dwarf: I would like to think so but I’m not sure how true that is.

Metal Fanatix: What are the biggest differences you guys notice these days in the business compared to when you were starting out?

Darrell Dwarf: Oh there are many. For one, these days there are thousands of bands to compete with. Two, major labels don't let a band get to maturity. They drop them after one if it doesn't sell millions, thus the indie record industry is becoming a force. So is internet radio. Thank god for the internet. It has helped the small artist starting out immensely.

Russ Dwarf: Mostly that the market has shrunk & the Big Companies have really lost ground as far as developing anything that really has lasting power. I know there are a few great new bands out there. Well maybe not that new like Green Day & such, but they are few & far between. It's all about the cash ain't it? So for one real Green Day they all try to clone another dozen like them & it ain't working. Here today gone later today... Yikes!!!

Metal Fanatix: Has there ever been a point of your career where you personally lost hope & thought everything was over?

Darrell Dwarf: There was a brief moment when things were grim in 1996. Right before I joined Laidlaw. I was actually not in a band for the first time in my life. What a horrible feeling. Killer Dwarfs had disbanded, my wife had left me, I was fucked. It's been all good since then though. Good learning experience about my own character. Some people kill themselves over shit like that. You have to be a strong mother fucker at times in this life.

Russ Dwarf: I think everyone has high & low points; you would be totally insane if you didn't. I bitch about it all the time, but I figure I have the right. I've done it! Press on [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: To become a star these days it seems the only way to make it would be to go on a reality music show like Idol or Pop stars (if you wanna call it that), Rockstar INXS etc. What do you think about the mass wave of reality shows looking for so called “Talent” and do you watch any of them?

Darrell Dwarf: I watch all of them. When it's new, it's kind of cool to see the talent sweat it. There’s lots of pressure. Now there are too many of these shows & the novelty is worn off.

Russ Dwarf: They should be called "Unreality Shows" [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: [Laughs] Unreality why do you say that Russ?

Russ Dwarf: These shows give people a false sense of hope I think, but who the hell am I to say? I just have to wonder how many people are this delusional about show business, but hey I guess that's why it seems to be such a mystery unless you are totally involved in it. I'm sure it serves a purpose to the "corporate world" keep them guessing & thinking it's all that easy anyone that has been around for more than ten minutes knows that this is just “entertainment" not "reality", if it was all that simple we'd all have #1 albums! Bottom line with these winners, I don't think they have the respect of peers or really have peers at all. They never really worked that hard for it or sacrificed anything. This is just a case of big money getting their way without having to deal real creativity or cultivate anything with substance. Maybe I'm just a bitter old Dwarf!

Metal Fanatix: In your honest opinion what do you think about the direction that Hard Rock & Heavy Metal music has taken over the last few years?

Darrell Dwarf: I don't agree with it all, but I think Grunge was necessary. It all just comes back around. This summer was chalked full of old metal tours like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden & Def Leppard. I thought I was back in the eighties this past summer.

Russ Dwarf: I really couldn't say, I do realize it has become so main stream as far as being "In" to wear the Motorhead, Iron Maiden swag & such but I don't know what that means, I can't assume because we see some TV star wearing a Motorhead shirt that they are really listening to it. I think Heavy Metal is a way of life. I know though that there are way more young kids rockin' out to this old stuff, which is really good to see.

Metal Fanatix: Oh I agree there, it’s really nice to see younger fans getting into the Heavy Metal roots. Are either of you currently listening to any of the newer Hard Rock/Metal bands? If so who?

Darrell Dwarf: I have been listening to a lot of Indie internet radio. Bands no one has heard of. Also I like Audioslave, Green Day, Velvet Revolver & Theory Of A Deadman. I spin these disc's frequently, as well as old Creedance, Alice Cooper, AC/DC & Johnny Winter.

Russ Dwarf: As of late I have been listening to a band called ‘Old Crow Medicine Show’ a cool Hick-Billy band for the south. They do traditional bluegrass, really fun tunes. I also have been getting into the new ‘Van Zant’ brothers Cd, that’s a total master piece! These two guys’ are the younger brothers of ‘Ronnie Van Zant’ the singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you like southern rock, then check this out. I think you'll be hearing from these guys for a long while, cheers to them!

Metal Fanatix: What advice do you have for up and coming Rock/Metal bands?

Darrell Dwarf: Make sure you have a solid girlfriend that will get your back in every way without whining, & you are in.

Russ Dwarf: Believe in yourself & don't take no for an answer. Someone will always try to rain on your parade, if you truly love what you do it will happen, that goes for anything in life. Try to remember it's a gift & a privilege to be able to do this for your life’s work. You don't have the cure cancer. It’s just showbiz. You've gotta laugh or you’re gonna cry.

Metal Fanatix: There has been so many highlights in your career, what would you say have been your greatest achievements to date?

Darrell Dwarf: Surviving the Rock n Roll business for twenty eight years. That's about as big as it gets.

Russ Dwarf: Being forty five & still alive for one [laughs]. It's still too early to look back at this point. If I make it to seventy five maybe I'll feel like I’ve really accomplished something. I know I've been lucky to have been able to live my dreams through Rock n Roll that is pretty cool considering you start dreaming that when you’re like eleven years old [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: Which record/song would define Darrell & Russ Dwarf to complete strangers?

Darrell Dwarf: Back in Black – AC/DC.

Russ Dwarf: Rock n' Roll Suicide – David Bowie.

Metal Fanatix: In a few words can you tell us the first thing that comes to mind when I mention the following Killer Dwarfs tracks?

Time To Move On:

Darrell Dwarf: Weak Production.

Russ Dwarf: First BBQ!

We Stand Alone:

Darrell Dwarf: Gay!

Russ Dwarf: A cyst on my jaw. This song started out very heavy, by the time it got worked over it was Killer Dwarfs light as far as I was concerned & definitely should not have been the first single on that CD. Oh well you can't win them all [laughs]. This is what happens when you get a Huge Record deal & stop paying attention [laughs]. I personally thought the first single on that CD should have been ‘Tell Me Please’.

Dirty Weapons:

Darrell Dwarf: Powerful Rock Hit.

Russ Dwarf: L.A., Andy Johns. This is one of my fave Killer Dwarfs tracks it still sounds fresh to me.

Method to the Madness:

Darrell Dwarf: Heavy.

Russ Dwarf: “The Cod Father”, one of the first tunes I wrote with guitarist Gerry Finn.

Do or Die:

Darrell Dwarf: Drums from Hell.

Russ Dwarf: A new beginning after the first album... we really felt all alone and were really hungry to prove we could make a good record on our own.

Metal Fanatix: If you could put a band together consisting of musicians passed and/or present who would they be and what would you call the band?

Russ Dwarf: Well then... Bon Scott on vocals, Rick Derringer on guitar, John Bonham on drums & Geddy Lee bass & me Bus driver! [Laughs]

Darrell Dwarf: Me on vocals. Nikki Sixx on Bass, Eric Singer on Drums & Billy Gibbons on Guitars, Band Name ‘The Pricks’ [laughs].

Metal Fanatix: What are you plans for the rest of the year?

Darrell Dwarf: Working 24/7 with my record label uNKLEDUNk Records, marketing & touring Automan.ca.

Russ Dwarf: Writing tunes for my solo CD & some songs for other people, plus working as a teacher for a Rock School & going to the Casino!

Metal Fanatix: Any last words you want to share with our readers?

Darrell Dwarf: This was a long assed interview [laughs]. Hope you enjoyed my efforts. See you out there.

Russ Dwarf: Keep on Keepin On!! Go Dunks!!

For all the latest news on the Dwarfs or any of their solo projects go to the following sites:

http://www.killerdwarfs.com - Official Dwarfs website
http://www.darrellmillar.com - Official Darrell (Dwarf) Millar website
http://www.Automan.ca - Official Automan.ca website
http://insideout666.mysite.freeserve.com - Dedicated to 40 years of pure hard rock & metal music
http://www.uNKLEDUNkRecords.com - Unkledunk Records

© Cameron Edney November 2005 Not to be re-printed in any form without written permission.